Earlier this week, my preferred candidate, Fred Thompson withdrew from the presidential race. He had been almost every conservative blogger's favorite (with a few notable exceptions) even before announcing. Thompson's late entry (compared to others running) and anti-establishment stance, which put him in an early hole with the media establishment (from which he never recovered, and in fact, hit pieces on him have still been appearing all week), inspired a great deal of enthusiasm online and among many conservative activists. His detailed policy papers and formidable debate performances also served the conservative cause well, forcing the other, more moderate candidate's policies on several issues to the right in response.
As I've posted last week, my next choices are Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney, who I would rate as about equal, but substantially less appealing. The current front-runner and media darling, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee are even less appealing, representing far more centrist and populist impulses. McCain owes his status primarily to independent voters from open primary states; Huckabee is supported almost entirely by fundamentalist values voters.
Steven Stark has an interesting piece at RCP concerning Thompson, given the state of the race, and he has an interesting historical parallel - the election of 1920, when a dark horse candidate emerged from the convention to not only take the nomination but the presidency - Warren G. Harding.
"If McCain loses in Florida, the Republicans may well be headed to a deadlocked race and convention. And history teaches us that the likeliest candidate to emerge in that scenario is someone like Warren G. Harding: the prototypical, less-than-stellar candidate to which conventions turn when the going gets rough. This year's Harding? Believe it or not (are you sitting down?), despite the fact that he's withdrawn from the race, is Fred Thompson."
Harding ran quite poorly in 1920 - the leading candidates were a California senator, the governor of Illinois, and a retired Army General, Leonard Wood. However, none of them received the majority of delegates, and Harding had two distinct advatanges - he looked presidential, and he hadn't generated any significant antagonisms from the various party candidates or their supporting interests. This year, Fred Dalton Thompson also fits this mold. As Stark points out, Huckabee and Guiliani aren't likely to be the nominee unless they can get a delegate majority, which appears impossible at this point. McCain is strongly opposed by the both the party establishment and conservatives, and Romney is (for whatever reason) intensely disliked by the other candidates, despite strong support in some quarters, such as National Review and columnist/blogger/talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, leading it questionable that he could gather any support at the convention either.
That leads us to a brokered convention, and the emrgence of a consensus candidate, like 1920, that is everyone's second choice - Fred. Cross your fingers.